Quill & Quire, March 1999 -
Bronwyn Drainie, Author and critic
Norm bolen, Vice-President of Programming, History Television
Philip Marchand, Toronto Star newspaper
Ockham's RazorChapter One
"You see, I keep thinking that we need a new language, a language of the heart...some kind of language between people that is a new kind of poetry, that is the poetry of the dancing bee, that tells us where the honey is. And I think that in order to create that language we're going to have to learn how you can go through a looking glass into another kind of perception, in which you have that sense of being united to all things, and suddenly you understand everything."
André, in My Dinner with André 1
Toronto, Autumn 1997
The long drive into the city, into the molten sunset with Mahler's Fourth on the radio has left me feeling a little spacy, slightly disembodied. Or perhaps it is too much coffee. I turn south into the university campus and a parking spot appears as if by magic: I wheel the van in and turn off the ignition, thanking my lucky stars.
As I step down onto the street, a breeze touches my cheek and a human shape flashes by in silence, torso straining forward, wheels on his feet - Rollerblades. Hermes, I think. Then a perfumed bicyclist, straddling her machine, legs pumping, taillight strobing, derailleur clicking softly. A centaur. Nothing seems quite what it is.
The clinging ivy has turned a vibrant magenta, softening the relentless geometry of the grey limestone walls and leaded windows of the student dormitories along St. George Street. Scarlet and gold leaves drift to the ground from towering maples, gilding the lawns and sidewalks and gutters. A hard, cold rain begins to fall; people scud through the shadows like tacking sailboats, leaning into the breeze, hoods pulled up like monks' cowls, books and papers hugged to their breasts.
Umbrellas unfurl like spinnakers. Streetlights flicker and then ignite, one by one, like signal fires. For a few moments, I am living in a painting, or perhaps a poem. It seems to me that I am seeing things as they truly are - not as concrete, material objects, but as something less substantial and at the same time more real; as ideas and metaphors that have somehow jelled and taken on substance. The world is so much more beautiful like this! And then the crosswalk signal lights change and a driver taps a warning to me on his horn and I step back hastily to the curb and the feeling is gone.
The university campus gives my heart a lift; it strikes me as one of the few remaining places where you are welcome simply as a human being; where the facilities are designed to serve people and not as consumers or employees or executives or commuters or shoppers or tourists or entertainment-seekers or any other objectified, statistically quantifiable agglomeration - but simply as individuals. Of course, the blunt and insensible tools of instrumental reason, of the business ethic, of obsessive bottom line accounting are at work here as well, like some creeping fungus, but they have not yet managed to rot the fabric of so ancient and resilient an institution. There is room still for optimism.
I am late for my class, and as I run up the stairs of the Sidney Smith building, my shoes are flapping, the laces undone because they are the spindly round kind that will not stay tied. They came with the shoes, which hurt my feet but which, on the shelf in the store, looked seductively comfortable in the suppleness of the leather and the sculpted design of the synthetic soles. Oxblood wing tips, they are track shoes for executives, for the executive I used to be, a holdover in my increasingly obsolescent wardrobe.
There are fifteen people waiting for me in the small seminar room where I am to teach an extension course on communications theory and history. I write my name on the chalkboard and proceed with the formalities of an inaugural class. Fifteen people, ranging in age, I'd guess, from twenty-two to mid-forties. They are Chinese, Italian, Greek, Arabic, Anglo-Saxon, Jewish; a nice cross-section, and they come from all walks of life.
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A Search for Wonder In An Age of Doubt
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